today: It took me only a few hours back in the real world to appreciate how
terrible my language had become. One !*?*! week at camp and I sound like a
!*?*! sailor. It's funny, though: As soon as I get with the guys, as soon as I
go back to Mankato tomorrow, I'll be a toilet-mouth again, but the instant that
I pick up a phone or start talking into the tape recorder, something just
clicks in my brain and I start sounding like a normal human being.
SUNDAY, AUG. 8:
The Ghost is gone
Shortly after I
got back to training camp this afternoon, I ran into [back-up Quarterback]
Steve Dils. All he said was, "The Ghost is gone." [Running Back] Doug
Paschal was quitting. He figured he couldn't play with a bad knee, so he was
leaving, going back to North Carolina to work in a bank.
I went right down
to Doug's room. He was sitting there on his bed, surrounded by some of his best
friends on the team. I asked him if what Dilsy said was true, and he said it
was, and so then I asked him if he was sure that's really what he wanted to do.
You see, almost all players want to control their own destiny. Nobody wants to
get cut out of the game. But if you try to beat that, if you decide to get out
on your own, then you're really burning your bridges behind you. You might
regret that decision later and wonder for the rest of your life if you left too
So The Ghost and
I talked about that for a while, and then suddenly I realized that I was out of
place. I even felt a little uncomfortable. Oh, sure, Doug appreciated that I'd
come by, and he knew that I cared about him, but I'm supposed to be a star, and
he and all the other guys there just assumed that I couldn't really sympathize
with Doug in these straits. There are, you know, a lot worse tragedies in life
than dropping off a football team. My parents died within a few months of each
other two years ago. I've been through a divorce. No, sure, I've never been
cut, and I've never had to leave football. But I could understand. I could
empathize. But it was clear that Doug and the others there didn't think I
could. So I put out my hand and I told The Ghost goodby and good luck.
MONDAY, AUG. 9:
Dilsy made a
black mourning band out of tape and wore it at practice today in memory of The
Ghost. That was nice of him. Most times, no matter who's cut, it's like the guy
died. No, it's worse than dying because when you die people sit around and talk
about you, eulogize you. When you're cut from a football team, it's more like
you never existed at all. The ship sails every day, and if you're not on it,
it's like you never were.
It's even that
way when you're injured. You could score 16 touchdowns in the first half, but
if you get hurt at the start of the second, you're forgotten. Your teammates
walk right by you. There's nothing more shameful than to be an injured football
player on the sidelines during a game. The coaches look at you like you smell
bad, and if you don't look hurt, look hurt all over, you really are in trouble.
Dumb me, I've just never learned to put on a mean face when I play and a pained
one when I'm hurt.
The practice was
highlighted today when Reggie Jackson appeared. Reggie! Reggie! The Angels are
playing a series in Minneapolis, but they're off today, so Reggie got a
sports-writer friend to drive him down to Mankato. He was instantly the center
of attention. The photographers posed him centering for punts and all that sort
at all the fuss, as he always does. But I know Reggie, and I know if everybody
isn't falling all over him, then he's really miserable. He's such a softy
behind that tough shell, but he's also very suspicious of most people.